Chiropractic is widely recognized as one of the safest drug-free, non-invasive therapies available for the treatment of back pain, neck pain, joint pain of the arms or legs, headaches, and other neuromusculoskeletal complaints.
Although chiropractic has an excellent safety record, no health treatment is completely free of potential adverse effects. The risks associated with chiropractic, however, are very small. Many patients feel immediate relief following chiropractic treatment, but some may sometimes experience mild soreness or aching (similar to what they experience after some forms of exercise), headaches and tiredness.
Some articles in the media have linked one of the therapies that doctors of chiropractic, osteopaths and physical therapists provide–neck manipulation (also known as cervical manipulation)—with a certain rare type of stroke that results from a vertebral artery dissection (a tear in one of the arteries located at the base of the skull). A neck adjustment is a precise procedure, usually applied by hand, to the joints of the neck–your doctor of chiropractic has received extensive training to perform this procedure. It is important for health care consumers to understand that the largest research study on this issue shows there is no cause-and-effect relation between neck manipulation and stroke, and that patients visiting a doctor of chiropractic are no more likely to experience a stroke compared with patients visiting their primary care medical doctor.
While we don’t know the actual incidence of stroke associated with high-velocity upper neck manipulation, the occurrence does appear to be extremely rare, and on the order of one incident in several million treatments, based upon clinical reports and scientific studies.
If you are visiting your doctor of chiropractic with upper-neck pain or headache, be very specific about your symptoms, so that he or she can provide the safest and most effective treatment, even if it involves referral to another health care provider. Doctors of chiropractic are trained in a wide variety of treatment methods, and depending on your clinical condition, joint mobilization, therapeutic exercise, soft-tissue techniques, and other therapies maybe recommended. If the issue of stroke concerns you, do not hesitate to discuss it with your doctor of chiropractic.
Benefits and Risks of Neck Pain Treatments
Neck pain will affect about 70% of the population at some point in their lives and is a common reason many individuals seek help from a health care professional. A particular episode of neck-related problems can be mildly irritating, or it could be seriously debilitating.
While recent scientific studies have found that there are useful treatments for many neck-related problems, no one treatment has been shown to be effective in all cases. Commonly used physical treatments for neck pain include spinal manipulation, mobilization, massage, and therapeutic exercises. Common pharmaceutical treatments include acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxant medications, and narcotic (opioid) pain medications.
All of the commonly used neck pain treatments carry some risk. Most of these risks are mild, but some can be serious. Click here for more information about the benefits and risks of common neck pain treatments, including neck manipulation.
• Patient Education Page: How Safe Is Chiropractic?
• Patient Education Page: Chiropractic & Neck Pain
• Patient Education Page: Chiropractic & Headaches
• Patient Education Page: Headaches & the Warning Signs of Stroke
• Chiropractic: Frequently Asked Questions
• Research supporting chiropractic
• Information about chiropractic education